Special to FLORIDA TODAY Published 6:30 a.m. ET March 25, 2021
Surf Pig, a three-legged female Jack Russell seen here in 2019, was the 2018 and 2019 Top Overall champion of the East Coast Dog Surfing Championships. Surf Pig has since passed and will be memorialized at the 57th annual Easter Surf Festival featuring the 8th annual East Coast Dog Surfing Championships presented by Beachside Media. (Photo: TIM SHORTT/ FLORIDA TODAY)
COCOA BEACH — If you’ve missed watching the talented and fun-loving four-legged (and, yes, even three-legged) surfing dogs for the past two years, raise your paw.
Well, they’re back, along with the traditional Easter Surf Festival, which had been Brevard County’s longest continuous sporting event before the Covid-19 pandemic put an end to a 55-year streak of wave riders and wipeouts.
“We’re still going to refer to it as the 57th annual,” said event organizer Craig Harriman. “I think after a worldwide pandemic, they’ll give us a break on that.”
For the record, after the pandemic also canceled the Bells Beach (Australia) Pro/Am in 2020 after 58 consecutive years, only the East Coast Surfing Championships in Virginia Beach, Virginia, will ascend to the top of the list with its 58th straight year in late summer.
Harriman, 38, owner of four dogs and an “emotional support” mini pig, is all-too happy to combine his Beachside Media business with the Brevard Humane Society to bring back not only a weekend of fun, surfing competition but also the popular dog surfing event, one that has attracted as many as 5,000 onlookers to the beach in recent years.
Crowds gather in 2019 to watch the East Coast Dog Surfing Championships. The 57th annual Easter Surf Festival featuring the 8th annual East Coast Dog Surfing Championships presented by Beachside Media will return after taking 2020 off because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: TIM SHORTT/ FLORIDA TODAY)
“We’re excited that things are opening back up, but we’ll be cautious, too,” said Harriman, a former Iraqi war veteran with the U.S. Marines, who will closely follow city guidelines, starting with rental chairs spread far apart.
The event is such a crowd pleaser that the Brevard County Tourist Development Council and the County Commission approved a $9,000 grant to the Brevard Humane Society for this year’s competition, which will include an Easter Bunny dog fashion show and even a dog-kini contest.
“We’re excited to get it going again,” said Brevard Humane Society Executive Director Theresa Clifton, who figures the nonprofit lost “between $8,000 and $10,000” when last year’s event was canceled. “We’re slowly getting it back together and the animal world is working its way back, too.”
In 2019, Lily, seen here, was awarded Top Dog while the late Surf Pig was named Best Dog, at the East Coast Dog Surfing Championships. The 57th annual Easter Surf Festival featuring the 8th annual East Coast Dog Surfing Championships presented by Beachside Media will return after taking 2020 off because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: TIM SHORTT/ FLORIDA TODAY)
The event will honor the 2018 and 2019 Top Overall champion, Surf Pig, a three-legged female Jack Russell who has since passed away, who was “awesome,” Clifton said.
“Her highest competitor was Waldo, and he retired after 2019, when his joints started bothering him, just like humans,” Clifton said. “Now, we’ll be looking to see who’s stepping up.”
Surf Pig’s owner, John Gall, has graciously offered to teach dogs how to surf during both days of the event, at a $10 donation to the Brevard Humane Society.
“Who better than him, right?” Clifton said.
At a glance
What: 57th annual Easter Surf Festival featuring the 8th annual East Coast Dog Surfing Championships presented by Beachside Media
Human Surfing: Saturday, April 3: Starting at 8 a.m. along with occasional dog surfing lessons, a runway model competition and a concert by Beebs and Her Money Makers with special guests that include singer Kristen Warren, bass guitarist Norwood Fisher of the legendary band Fishbone, and reggae band The Strongbacks following the awards ceremony at 4 p.m.
Dog Surfing: Sunday, April 4: Starting at 9 a.m. with a Surf Bunny paddle-out and free-for-all surf to honor the late reigning two-time champion Surf Pig, well after the Calvary Church of Merritt Island’s Easter Sunrise Service on the beach, along with dog surfing lessons, fashion competition for dogs and a dog-kini event, before the noon surf-offs
Where: Lori Wilson Park, Cocoa Beach
Admission: Free, but there is a $10 parking donation to the Brevard Humane Society
Registration/information: www.beachsidenews.org or brevardhumanesociety.org